A Life Changing Trick for Tidying Up

lifechangingtrickI am the perpetual clutter queen. (The first step is admitting there is a problem, right?) So when I heard rave reviews about the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, of course I had to read it! It certainly has some fantastic ideas that I would love to implement some day, but its all or nothing approach just isn’t a good fit for me in this phase of life. I am not ready for all, and don’t want to do nothing. So I came up with this solution, and it really has proven to be the most magical trick I have found thus far!

 I have two words for you:  Two Laps.

That’s it. Two Laps.

Seriously, try this. It is the first trick I have found that actually works and I have been able to maintain it for more than a few weeks!

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Materials Needed:  A Laundry Basket

Directions:

1) Start in one room of your house. Put everything in that room away and place anything that doesn’t belong in that room into the basket.  (Example: In the kitchen I put all kitchen items away, and stash the shoe, the toothbrush (don’t ask) and the matchbox car in the basket.)

2) Carry the basket with you to the next room. If any of the items from the previous room belong in this room, put them away. Next, as you did in step one, put everything in the room away and deposit misplaced items into the basket. (Example: Now in the playroom, I take the matchbox car out and put it in the appropriate toy bin. I put away any other stray toys. I place the dirty sock and the empty cup in the basket to put away once I get to their appropriate rooms.)

3) Continue steps one and two in each room of your house.

4) By the time you have circled your house twice, you will have put everything where it belongs.  (The shoe made it into the garage cubby, the toothbrush in the bathroom, the sock in the laundry, the cup in the dishwasher.)

This tip is a huge time saver and the magic is in its simplicity.  If I were to put each stray item in its appropriate locale each time I came across one, I would be exhausted from going up and down the stairs, traipsing all over the house to the point of just giving up or only focusing on one room, leaving the rest for “tomorrow”.

The first time we implemented this strategy it took about 20 minutes. The next day it took less than 10. The third day it took less than 5 and we were done after only 1 lap. Some days are messier than others, but overall getting into the habit of doing this, we have been able to stay on top of the perpetual and inevitable clutter that 5 people living under one roof create.

These are the random itidyingup2tems we found on our third day: a feather duster, a drum stick, ski goggles (it is June), a cooling rack (toddlers and their treasures!), shoes, and a toy train. Imagine what we would find in a weeks’ worth of accumulation!

We do this immediately after the kids go to bed before we lose motivation. Skipping days just means it takes longer the next time as things accumulate. We are more relaxed, more efficient, and more productive in a tidy house. We have also found that the kids play better when their toy room isn’t a giant mess of toys (see here ) and they too are more motivated to put things where they belong when it is in manageable pieces.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

I leave you with two more words:

You’re welcome 🙂

Why Children Should Color Outside the Lines

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A dear cousin gave Jake this beautiful piece of art when he was born. We promptly hung it in his room.

Fast forward 4 years to this St. Patrick’s Day craft we were doing.  Jake spent a lot of time working on his project, putting the colors in rainbow order. He would add a few dots in different spots “for creativity”, and I was cool with that.

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Then I ran upstairs to get the babies, came back down and found this:

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At first I was very upset.  His picture looked so good and now he had ruined it. (Shamefully, in the back of my mind I was thinking “ugggh, I was planning to post this picture on the blog!”)  I started to yell at him, then I looked at his face. Full of wide-eyed innocence he said “I was seeing what happens when I mixed it all up” with such pride in his voice.  After all, we do LOVE the book Mix It Up!

I took a step back and the words “color outside the lines” kept flashing in my mind.  I had a choice- berate him because his art didn’t look like the cookie-cutter example, while squashing his creativity, diminishing his confidence (he is a perfectionist, so this risk he took was HUGE), and quelling his curiosity OR smile, tell him I loved all of the colors he used and proceed with a science experiment on how long it will take to dry. (For the record, he immediately deduced that we should put it outside to dry faster. Furthermore, I neglected to put paper under it, left it in the rain, and now have a green-stained deck, but that’s beside the point.)

This simple project meant as a holiday decoration reminded me of all of the the things I want for my son.

I want him to take risks and be unafraid of failure.

I want him to to express his creativity and individuality without pressure to conform.

I want him to think outside the box without repercussion.

I want him to be spontaneous and have fun without holding back.

I want him to try new things without the constraints of perfectionism.

I want him to act with passion not restriction.

In the end, it was a lesson learned for all. He gained valuable art, science, fine motor, and personal growth experience, and I learned to let go of preconceived notions and just let him be.

Life doesn’t have to fit neatly between the lines. Color it any way you want!

P.S.   I still despise paint and did not enjoy the mess, but it is so very worth it.

The #1 Way to Turn Your Luck Around

In this picture you see the joy, the smiles, the love.

What you don’t see is the job loss, the financial troubles, the marital stress, the difficult decisions, the  grief, the day to day exhaustion, the anxiety, the guilt.

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It is so easy to judge others, to make assumptions. You wouldn’t know it from meeting me, but if we were in a “when bad things happen to good people” contest, I would be right up there on the podium. Suffice it to say that  I have been unlucky enough that at my Grandma’s funeral the man of God delivering the eulogy literally said “no offense, but if there is lightning outside at the burial, I will not stand next to you”. Awesome, right?

That negative man would be hard-pressed to believe that the smiling people in the picture are legitimately happy. We don’t hide our realities from anyone; we just don’t let them define us. Here’s the reality: Life is tough. Everyone has their burdens. But if you are blinded by the negativity, it is nearly impossible to see all of the incredible things that life really does have to offer.

Yes, last year was a very challenging year for us, but we were HAPPY!  How couldn’t we be? It was an amazing year!

Hubby’s company folded right after the twins were born…  and together we were able to witness all of the incredible stages the first year brings- first smiles, foods, rolling, crawling, walking, first words, bonding, wonder, amazement.

We struggled financially…but the kids didn’t know it! They loved spending time with us, they loved each other. They showed us what was most important. We tightened our already frugal budget and anytime we felt “too cramped” in our house all we had to do was look around and see how happy they were.

We were exhausted and stressed…  and our exuberant 3-year-old made us laugh every single day. He amazed us with his budding reading and math skills, his tender heart, and his relentless joy for life.

We mourned the loss of three close family members… we stepped back to soak in the positive memories, thankful that we at least had those. We were able to see many of our out-of-state relatives. We remembered to cherish the short time we have on earth.

We learned some harsh realities about who our true friends and family are… and we embraced those that mattered. Together we celebrated marriages and baby announcements and knew who we could count on.

Our marriage took a toll… and we pushed each other to seek out the good, recognize that it was a challenging time, and fight for our relationship.

We felt stuck and had wanted to move for years… and we accepted the challenge to move across the country ready for a fresh start and a blank slate.

We sold our house, we bought a new one.

It is easy to see how we could have thrown a pity party much of last year, but look at all that we would have missed out on!  Rather than feel sorry for ourselves or let it consume us, we chose to see the positives.  With the right mindset, we were able to keep faith that everything would work out how it was meant to.

Trust me, positivity didn’t always come easily to me. I used to be overly critical, judgmental, and downright negative. I envied people who let things slide off their backs and had faith that things would work out. I thought everyone else’s life was so much easier than mine.  One day I made the conscious decision to change that, and with practice it has now become who I am.

I am not going to get all “Law of Attraction” or “The Secret” on you, but I will say this: Once Hubby and I made the effort to seek out the positives, more and more good things shone through (we even won a trip!). Having a positive attitude gives you faith in life, in others, in yourself. It helps you see there is light at the end of the tunnel and to recognize that setbacks are just that- setbacks.

Having a positive attitude gives  you faith in life, in others, in yourself.

The #1 strategy that helped me turn my negative thinking around was this simple practice:

Each night, before going to sleep, name 5 things that you are thankful for. 

Initially, it may start out totally forced. You may be grasping for straws-  thankful for air to breathe, food to eat, a roof over your head. Soon it becomes second nature and you will find that you are able to see the positives in any situation.

You will gravitate towards other positive people and your whole outlook will change.

You will be motivated to chase your dreams and seek out what makes you happy.

You will quickly see how lucky you really are!

Right-side UP

Bring it on, Pinterest!

Pinterest is a metaphor for my life, taunting me every step of the way. I hear the quiet whispers- “you wish you could do this”, “you are all talk”, “so much to do, so little time”. It is yet another giant to-do list, filled with lofty goals intertwined amongst the easily achievable. And like my Instagrampinchallengecrazy, messy life, I love it.

As with any other obstacle I’ve faced in life, I am not going to let it bring me down. I am going to take control of it, one tiny image at a time. Why? Because I WANT to! Unlike my typical monstrosity of a to-do list, these are things that I actually want to do.

This ingenious social media tool has taught me some hard truths about myself. It has also motivated me to overcome these realities and strive to improve upon them.

 1) I am a creative person trapped in a 1st grader’s body.

Seriously, ask my college art methods instructor. He asked us to draw a tree, so I did. He then held mine up and illustrated the point that my art instruction must have stopped around 4th grade, as exemplified by my art skills. It was harsh, but he had a point.

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So you can imagine the problem this poses to a Pinterest addict such as myself. I see so many awesome ideas I want to implement, but when I go to make them they are horrible. Yet I still WANT to make them.

I see every craft, experiment, etc. as a creative outlet that is further developing my skills. I see the projects I have made and feel a sense of pride in whatever minute accomplishment I achieved. I am still that kid who wants her work displayed on the refrigerator! Once I learned to let go of the perfection aspect, I realized that painting actually relaxes me. Sometimes I literally just make a mess of brush strokes on a piece of paper just to have a little meditative moment. (Adult paint by numbers are another awesome invention!)

I also believe my children will cherish the keepsakes I am making for their rooms. After all, when deciding what to keep from my own childhood home, it was the personalized items that I saved. It didn’t matter if it was ugly, outdated, or amateur, it was made by someone who wanted to show their love.

2) I used to have a brain.

Really, I did. However, now thanks to Pinterest, I hardly ever use it! Incredible ideas abound on Pinterest, so why reinvent the wheel?

That said, I find that my creativity is inevitably unleashed when I start on a project. With the exception of recipes, since I am truly a neophyte in the kitchen, I try to use Pinterest ideas as more of a starting point. I often gather 20+ ideas for one project and use these ideas as a springboard for my own creations. If I try to copy something verbatim I am always comparing it, seeing all of the flaws. If I stray and create with my own interpretation, my own vision, or even just my own color scheme, the comparison takes a backseat to the excitement and anticipation. Sometimes that means crapping it up and making a terrible mess of it……. but, it’s about the journey, not the destination, folks!

 3) I am a woman of the perpetual to-do list that never gets done.

Pinterest has only magnified that. I currently have 4,365 pins. Four Thousand, Three Hundred, sixty-five. But unlike my massive list of household chores and extraneous things that need to be done, I actually WANT to do these things. I think that makes it bother me even more. I want to do them, and I still don’t!

4) I can’t cook.

A recipe can sound so simple, but I always seem to muck it up. I am impatient in the kitchen. I don’t really want to wait for things to simmer, but I am starting to see the reason for it, for “layering” flavors rather than just throwing it all in one pot. I want food to taste good, but despite my best efforts, it is usually just okay.

However, this is one that I am not going to back down on. Feeding my family wholesome clean foods is one of my utmost priorities, and that can’t happen with prepackaged grocery items.

As with anything, the more I practice, the more comfortable I become, and the better I will be. Pinterest is a great place to find and store recipes and has motivated me to try things I never would have tried in a million years.

 5) I was spoiled growing up.

I wasn’t spoiled financially or with material things; I was spoiled by the fact that my parents took care of the housework and didn’t force us to do chores or tasks that didn’t interest us. (Due to unfortunate events, they never got to teach us these things as we got older as they had planned to do.) So as a result, I have a lot to learn as an adult! Things that come easily to some have been quite the learning experience for me! Ask my poor husband about the time I put dish soap in the dishwasher in our first apartment…..

Laugh all you want, but I really do want my laundry to be clean, my closets organized, my life to feel more structured. I want to be comfortable going into someone’s house and just helping, but that is hard to do when I am not confident in my own abilities. I can give you workout tips, create a lesson plan or jump into most physical activities without batting an eye, but ask me to put dishes away in someone else’s kitchen and I freeze. Pinterest is helping me to improve in so many of these areas!

So I am declaring a two-fold Pinterest Challenge. The first one is personal, the second is universal.

Stroller Savvy Pin Challenge

Personal Challenge:

My personal challenge is: 1000 pins.   I was originally going to set the time frame at 1 year, but I am hesitant to do so. I think it’s a great goal, but here is why I left it off:

I don’t want to do pins just for the sake of doing pins. I know myself. If I am simply trying to reach a target number, I will start choosing the quickest, easiest pins just to reach that number. That will have far less benefit on my personal growth and defeats the purpose of the challenge.

My intention is to implement these great ideas that I have pinned for one reason or another. These tiny images struck a chord with me and I am going to see where they take me. Some will take a half hour, some will take weeks. I am going to focus on the ones that make sense for me and my family at the time without being pressured by deadlines.

Universal ChallEnge:

The Universal Challenge involves YOU.  Think about what challenges Pinterest poses to you. What do you want to work on? What have you been avoiding? Which pins stand out to you? How can you grow as a person through this challenge?

Since the year is 2015, let’s see how fast we as a community can accomplish 2015 pins. I say “fast”, but the same rules apply.

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1) Challenge yourself to try new things. Only pins you have not done before count for this challenge.

2) Choose pins from a variety of genres in order to grow in different areas of your life.  My personal Pinterest page includes ideas for travel, recipes, workouts, crafts, education, books to read, decorating, refurbishing, new skills (sewing, knitting), cleaning, organization, etc.

3) Be creative! If you create your own pin, it counts as 3 points.

4) Don’t just do pins for the sake of doing pins. Choose pins that reach out to you for some reason. Seek out pins that work towards your personal goals or make you feel good. (For me that entails healthy eating, fixing up the house, and spending quality time with my children.)

5) Follow @StrollerSavvy on Instagram and add your completed project. I will update our running tally. Be sure to #strollersavvypinchallenge and any other relevant key words. Share the challenge with friends!

A few sidenotes:

1) I started my personal challenge in February and will be updating my progress soon. (Technical difficulties!)

2) I will be adding pins that I feature on this blog to the Stroller Savvy Pinterest board in order to make it easier for you to locate pins that interest you. Follow me there!

3) You can follow the challenge by:  Signing up to receive email updates, following me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Happy Pinning!!!